28 June 2005

puh-ride: a long backstory

It's true. I have no affliation whatsoever with "Scouting for All," the organization whose banner I marched behind, hollered for, and bared my silken pit hair and blue-white belly for this fine irriguous 26th of June. The banner itself, in fact, belonged to the dear friend who led our gay posse (the jolly lad with the yellow poster in the photo of the previous post). He met us at 52nd St. and 5th Avenue with a wrinkled banner and some darling glossy brochures detailing the pure, unambivalent desires and godless but infinite rights of homos and atheists to belong to and learn from the great institution of scoutery. What nobler cause, i.e., what better excuse, truly, to march four miles half-naked in front of millions, I ask you?

One factoid which you might keep in mind before you file me in your crazy file is that I was, indeed, a girl scout for a solid seven years. Brownie to Junior, kindergarten through sixth, from dear octogenarian Pied Pianist Mrs. Ulrich through closeted but female-partnered Ms. Koch (the lesbian frosting on the lesbian cake of my elementary career). I'm sure the only obstacle to my continued participation in the girl scouts (besides the insipid and redundant pleas from my comrades to sing "He's Got the Whole World in His Hands") was the fact that we Barton Bulldogs were separated for junior high; the neighborhood kids went to Lesher and the bussed-in losers (moi) went to Boltz (see incendiary mascot). GO PHOENIXES!!! Phoenixii? Man that was a tough mascot. The school burned down in 1972 shortly before it opened and after it was rebuilt they slapped a crude rendering of a flaming bird on its front. But I don't recall ever chanting for a Phoenix on the volleyball court or proudly proclaiming my own flaming potential for reincarnation. No no, that came in high school. When I was a lambkin.

There would be no more scouting for me, and once my mother married the formalwear king she decided that the Fort Fun Kuntry Klub affiliated "National Charity League" was just the ticket for my sister and me. It was a privileged coterie of ensemble-matching mothers and daughters who mostly showed up late for meetings and planned menus for pointless gatherings like the Valentine's Tea, an event at which there were neither Valentines nor tea. But we labored over countless mini flower arrangements that sweated daintily and dampened their doilies until the appointed hour at which time they were shuttled home in BMWs and Suburbans and Mercedes and posted in basement bathrooms and forgotten about for the two days it took them to wilt and begin the inevitable rottening. The doilies, like the white gloves they joked about requiring us girls to wear, never made it past our hosts' marble foyers.

But, really folks, we're talking about the girl scouts here. I'm insulted by my own tangent. Not only did I personally research and invite the cosmetologist from Merle Norman who gave our troop the makeovers that sealed the deal on our makeup badges, not only did I (four years running) sell the most cookies (sometimes ranking in the top tier of the whole goddamned Mountain Prairie Council), but I, friends, I went to girl scout camp, and it has made all the difference (to murder a serially killed line from your favorite and mine, Mr. Bobby Frost).

I went to Meadow Mountain Ranch for five years, and with each ensuing year, my reputation grew in seniority and significance, if not at all in height (and like all details in these charming and pointless narratives, my midgethood is very important to the story). I know I have already regaled a few of you with stories of the prepubescent, subconscious, fully-clothed sexual awakening which occurred in these earnest, neatly freckled years. You, I hope, will bear with me now. Perhaps I will make up new salacious details to earn your titillation. (It should be noted, before I start, that what is truly impressive about any of this is the fact that my mother could afford to send me to this camp, year after year, as a parent without reliable or fair support from her co-parent. It should also be noted that my mother regrets having been so enterprising to send me, having heard this story before.)

My fourth year of five, the most glorious of my attendance, I was enrolled in the theatuh camp. For the uninitiated, one has a myriad of choices at girl scout camp, or at least one did in the mid- to late-80s. They each had clever names like, "Horsing Around," "Hike-a-roo," "Comedy and Tragedy," and, simply, "Adventure." The first and last I did not experience for reasons of cost, though I do remember an early and pleasurable encounter with a horse called Pantyhose. They had all-around camp registration, too, but never cleverly named it. It was something utilitarian like "Session I." Anyway, this fourth year featured a group of fine and burly and sporty and hippyish 18- to 20-something counselors who had, according to custom, rechristened themselves with names like Skipper, Cricket, Gaven, Sunshine, and Bananaz*. The new names not only armored the mystery of our counselors with the metallic-edge of sex but they made it effectively impossible to locate them in order to act out our burning crushes. And it was a big deal if a counselor told you her real name. Clearly, the two names which stand out in the above list are Gaven (ambiguous in terms of meaning, unambiguously butch in connotation, and she had a mullet) and Bananaz* (pronounced Bananazzzstar, often provoking jazz hands, which I believe was the desired effect). These two also happened to be in charge of us, the thessspians.

Having established my seniority to campers and counselors alike (mostly by bragging like an asshole, which was the rule amongst all of us), I quickly demonstrated my commitment to our production. The first time the "cast" (the other gals who could afford to be there) convened, I was clearly the bossiest and the wackiest. And I brought my Harriet the Spy secret notebook to the first meeting. Shortly thereafter, Bananaz* took me out to the woods alone and told me I'd earned the title and obligation of writer/director for the show we were to perform (I acted as well, but the role was really quite peripheral). First I kneeled in front of her and then she took me on her lap and gave me her clipboard (for keeps), whispering to me of the seriousness of this job and her love for and trust in me. Bananaz* (in my memory) was physically arresting but in private had a sly, chin-lowering charisma. She resembled Chloe Sevigny with twice the weight and half the hair, and I burned with adoration and the desire to please. The title of the play I eventually foisted on my peers was "Vanna White and the Seven Weight Watchers" (oddly prescient of my thesis debacle).

Late at night, the ladies would often smuggle me out of my "tabin" (the top of a canvas tent lashed over a wooden base) so that we could "work"; meaning, they would feed me other campers' candy from the camp ordained rubbermaids, they would take off their shirts, and I would gently walk on their naked backs. We also talked, although I can't really imagine what I could have contributed to any conversation about their lives they might have had around me. I was 11-years-old. And they were nearly, if not wholly, a decade older. What I remember is that I was very very small compared to them, and that they seemed to derive a lot of pleasure from the kneadings of my toes and the tempered weight of my heels. There were nights when they invited other counselors for my famous back walks. It was also somehow clear to me that it was because of my tiny body and my weird brain that I was chosen for these late night encounters. And this felt profoundly sexual in a way that at that point translated only as extreme nervousness. What I don't know is whether these encounters were as numerous as they've become in my mind. Maybe the counselors did this with all the campers, to make them feel special, to make them feel initiated into something mysterious and adult.

What I do know is that I left camp that year knowing Gaven's real name was Kelly Brink and Bananaz* was Evie...only Evie. Kelly lived in the Fort, my hometown, and Evie, well, she'd recently played Ronnette (one of the trio) in Little Shop of Horrors in Denver and was headed to L.A. to be an actress. I do know that shortly after I came home from camp I initiated a prank call campaign for Kelly's love ("Hello?" "...click." "Hello?" "...click." "Hello?" "...(pause)...click") but that I never heard from or saw Evie ever again, which made me doubt that the real name she told me was real at all.

I eventually found out that Kelly is the daughter of my be-loath-ed high school choir director. She showed up my senior year for our Christmas Sing, when we travel around and sing for all of the under-schools (including Boltz, but not Barton as it was closed the year after I moved on). After attempting to totally dissociate her from her numbnuts father, we went for a little walk out to the parking lot to perch on the bumper of her Geo. She'd kept the mullet after all these years, and the most urgent, honest thing I could do was immediately come out to her.

"WE ALWAYS KNEW ABOUT YOU!" she laughed and pointed.
"You did?" I was shocked by the confirmation of my gayness, something I wasn't (at that point) even all that comfortable with.
"YEAH, totally. You had this way of talking even then that was more like flirting."

And there was more to that conversation that has pretty much disappeared, although I could reconstruct it sometime if you like. I did, after all, spend three years pretending to write fiction while making up stories about my own life. But this story is what I thought about when I marched down 5th Avenue in my old lady sandals, carrying my "GO GIRL SCOUTS!" poster that our leader had lovingly painted to match my green pleated skirt. And if the crowd waved and smiled frantically enough, I'd shout, "How many of you had your first sexual experience at girl scout camp?" and I'd survey the disturbed faces, watching for any hands.

27 June 2005

we're here, we're queer,

and we can start fires.

25 June 2005

between a rock and a rrrrock, part dux

Living in urban environments compels a soul to develop all kinds of trust. For example, tonight at the Get Up Kids show I was standing beneath a ten-foot-wide disco ball, drinking something with vodka in it (something watery and tasty all at the same time), listening to music I trust won't destroy my capacity to hear in, say, ten or fifteen years (because face it people, when we hit forty listening seems to become less of a priority anyway), I somehow trust that the drunk gal dancing karaoke-video-style for her boyfriend will eventually figure out he's gay, and on the way home making eye contact with a dude on the train with a two foot long beard and a clean shaven wallstreeter who I must trust aren't a bearded psycho-killer or an american psycho respectively. Et cetera, etc. Not to say I wasn't this trusting in the heartland, but then, the likelihood that I knew the dude who hoisted that two-ton, sparkling marvel and winched it with a boy scout makeout worthy knot seemed very high indeed in the happy hamlet of Btown. And the dude with two foot long beard in Btown had renamed himself Forrest or Woods Full Of Trees, or something. But here, I feel literally compelled to trust, as if trusting in the place will make it light up or spin or throw quarters at me. So today, children, the lesson is: trust and be stupid/fun/boring/murdered/sane...trust and be, I guess. And when that business spinning above you comes crashing down, at least you won't be one of the losers crushed beneath it because they got misty and distracted, holding their cell phones stageward to funnel music to someone beloved or hated in the great elsewhere.

23 June 2005

between a rock and a rrrrock

Yesterday was Thursday and Thursdays are ESP days (electric sensory pineapples or everybody shock perception or extra smirks pretty) and so when I passed an old lady wearing the most practical padded and laced shoes (taupe) and a crisp sun hat (matching taupe) with a wee bit of white froth of hair descending over the smooth wrinkled sky of her forehead and a little jacket (mmm...tan) and a little shirtdress (taupe) I thought, SHE'S NO-NONSENSE and then she lifted up her eyes which leapt from the faces of my feet to my eyes and I heard her think, SHE'S ALL-NONSENSE. Never has an expression in reverse reflected such cunning self-vindictiveness. I was wearing green eyeshadow. This mental self-flagellation brought to you in honor of the new Onex shoes I purchased. The design is called "Present." The lady moved away from me so quickly and adroitly in her sensible shoes that I could only whisper but they're so comfortable into the mouth-warm train wind hustling through my hair.

But really, folks, they are that comfortable. Excellent arch support, buttery straps, well-proportioned heel. And of course there are the tasteful rhinestones, or diamantés, if you will. These shoes are about both privilege and determination. They are the key to the fake-rich-old-lady aesthetic I attempt on a daily basis. If I were a little mouse and I called myself The Brain, I'd say Onex shoes will be the key when I TAKE OVER THE WORLD. And I wore my new red shoes to the Sleater-Kinney show at Roseland last night and I danced, oh yes, I danced. I danced through a two hour show and two encores. I danced until I quite literally wet myself. There was even a brief moment when I believe I took part in the kind of dainty mosh pittance you can imagine me allowing myself. A little bit of elbow move. Lots of hair. Only one toenail, large and to the left, polish partially stomped off on the dancefloor. But enough about the shoes.

Carrie Brownstein is a rock guitar god. Corin Tucker sings like a fucking superstar, like nobody else. And Janet Weiss is a beast on the drums. When compared with the aforementioned Get Up boyband, I become wordless. I begin quoting Susan Sontag:
Art is the objectifying of the will in a thing or performance, and the provoking or arousing of the will. From the point of view of the artist, it is the objectifying of a volition; from the point of view of the spectator, it is the creation of an imaginary décor for the will. ("On Style," 1961)

This music is actualized. It's erotic because it does in fact arouse the desire for movement—moral, sexual, physical, intellectual—in the listener. Movement toward something more real. We, the audience, are witnesses to something personal that creates the deepest craving to possess and communicate something just as infinitely personal and communicable as their music. S/K's songs actually sound like distinct songs. Not just intro-hook-verse-chorus-verse-hook- with a cockrockend. And I'm sorry, like, in the junior high sense of being sorry, but Carrie can wank a ten minute guitar solo in my presence, like, any day.

20 June 2005

Monday to Friday Posted by Hello

19 June 2005

"suggestive" incoherence

Saturday I did some old-fashioned gallery-hopping in Chelsea with friends. Two shows were decidedly mobbed, those were Sophie Calle and Jasper Johns. Ms. Calle, who the internet tells me used to be a "stripper," titled her show "Exquisite Pain"--not sure whether the translation makes it sound like early undergraduate melodrama or if it's wholly intended (one expects the words "liminal" and "spaces" to crown the gushy thesis of the catalogue like a rainbow refracting through fresh waterspray). Ms. Calle declares in silkscreened text , marking the entrance museumlike, that the exhibition chronicles the "end of a love affair." This end she casually identifies as "nothing unusual" is built up to through the dark/glib (all kinds of depressing Japanese hotel rooms) and bloody/passionate (texts which narrate the lover's past attempts to strangle her) in the photographs and found objects which count down her "92 DAYS UNTIL UNHAPPINESS." She's stamped each photo, ticket, key, book, and letter with the phrase and the numbers descending. Though I have done this kind of thing once or twice before, I'm always puzzled by certain aspects of the whole sticky wicket: First, do people just trawl about, like the lady I saw with the mercury-shaded coif and the quilted rompers, pointing at and then purchasing art? Who chooses the artists?--an obvious question, yes, but, so many of these shows felt like "friend" shows. Like, "I have this friend and she's brilliant and you simply must give her a week in June." An example of this might be the neon spray painted glossyblack fields of a painter whose name, of course, was neither memorable to me nor well-known. I suppose I'm going to have to go a lot in order pinch off my proverbial dillettante.

12 June 2005

francis bacon does the ladyfriend, or, the ladyfriend does francis bacon Posted by Hello

10 June 2005

we meet again

The gods of the Midwest have approved my departure from Indianer, and granted me the ritual gift of an Ohioan speeding ticket--there's just something special about being arbitrarily chosen for such acknowledgment. As our great country prepared to honor our war dead with domestic beer, professional sporting events, and plastic yellow flowers, Officer X (not his real name) targeted but one of the many many many speeding through Clinton County--breaking the law. He chose the largest vehicle on the road: me in my 16-foot Budget truck. Given the Sanctity of the holiday and the statistically proven prevalence of drunk driving, my 11 mph over the 65 mph limit presented a danger the extremity of which I am most likely incapable of appreciating. He gave this little lurch in his squad car before pulling out and accelerating (which I can't help comparing to the little jerk of the wrist fishermen hope will parlay the hint of a bite into a whole fish) and I knew I was donefor.

I do, however, find it humorous in retrospect that I feel grateful for Officer X, who was polite, soft-spoken, and professional. He wore inoffensive sunglasses which were assertive but not hubristic, and he revealed only his lower teeth while speaking. These teeth appeared to be staggered into a slalom and (this could be attributed to adrenaline) the teeth seemed to be lit from each side. Deep shadows grooved each vertical border. I have to say that my perfect driving record was obliterated without much pain, but 300 miles later, when Kyle took the lead into New Jersey, my nerves raved and jangled. Driving that Budget truck with my domestic trappings in tow reminds me of something: I am a damn risky fool. But I'm also fucking fearless when I have to be. And, ticket aside, you can tell my grandmothers I'm an excellent driver. Go on, tell them.

Kyle and I rolled into East Orange around 2 am, endeavored to squeeze the truck into the fenced drive behind his mother and step-father's house, gave up, locked up, and passed out. But only for five hours or so because we had to get up and unload Kyle's business in the morning. The fact that easy passage for trucks travelling from Jersey to Brooklyn (via the Holland tunnel) is now verboten was unbeknownst to me until I rolled up to the toll and this lovely gentleman leaned over to me conspiratorially and said, "Well, hello beautiful! You can't drive that in there!" He pointed seductively to a row of cops, all of whom were attempting to morph their glares into an evil sort of Care Bear Stare to tractor beam me over to the shoulder. After a brief search of the aforementioned domestic trappings, Kyle followed me to the Lincoln tunnel (way uptown) and we managed to wend our way downtown, through Chinatown, across the Manhattan, and down into Brooklyn. When I pulled up Wash. Ave., not only was there a parking spot directly in front of the apartment, but this spot was fiercely guarded by the hottt ticket ladyfriend, her ex-marine Republican Mormon Pops, the tough as toenails Wah T., and Josh K., this delicious, muscley, masterwork-of-gaymanhood-with-an-actual-bus-driving-license who immediately hopped in the Budget truck and parallel parked it like it was a Mini Cooper. Crying, while a desired signifier of relief, was not an option given my exhaustion. Long, somewhat bruising, story short, the crew managed to unload me, load the hottt ticket, and unload again within hours. But I could not have survived this migration without all the help I got from everybody I left behind in Indiana. Like I said before, standing invitation. We have guest towels. We have inflatable mattresses. Soon, in fact, we may even have air conditioning.

While there are a few photos to come of the new digs (thanks to the ladyfriend for l'appareil-photo), let's just say that the kitchen contains more cabinet and counter space than my fairy godmother could have ever promised, and really, the closets are pretty good. Cat Madness Cat approves (lots of flies and cockroach-looking things that are so small they're almost cute) when he's not passed out in the heat. The neighborhood is just about three blocks from Prospect Park (Star Wars I, I mean, IV, played last weekend to booos and claps as part of the first Saturday funstuff every month) and the Brooklyn Museum (Basquiat closed last week, but not before I got my googly eyes on it), which as many of you know, really has a Figment-(think Epcot)-style fountain that giggling/screaming kids tempt with their dry clothes.

Another development: I am now 26-years-old (that's 26 candles on the cake down there). I called my dying grandmother to tell her I'd had her pearls restrung, and though she sounded excited, all she said was, "Tell me, where are you now?" My uncle told me she's snuck me all the jewelry under the family radar.

Due to the fact that I've started working with a couple of dynamo-feminist-writer-people (the ladyfriend has generously shared them with me) who happen to be in their early-middle-thirties but who have each started a couple of businesses and nonprofits, feminist orgs, and written and co-written several books, I still feel young. But now I'm beginning to think I feel young because I really haven't done much as of yet. I am effectively unemployed. The notion of my yet-to-be-completed thesis has evacuated my head so thoroughly I actually had to look up the title I'd concocted. I did buy a toilet brush yesterday! Oh, but I am ripe for self-scorn! Best to treat that with some new age hokum pokum...Tahitian Noni Juice...hypnosis...I have some Koolaid! Your commune is ready, sir! Hari hari hari!

ice cream cakes do burn Posted by Hello